Lawmakers Renew Push To Cap Payday Interest Rates, Right-To-Die Bill Advances In Legislature

Feb 3, 2017

New Mexico Lawmakers Renew Push To Cap Payday Interest RatesThe Associated Press

Legislators are taking aim at the payday and title loan industry in New Mexico once again, seeking to limit exorbitant interest rates often charged by lenders.

Similar measures introduced in the House and Senate call for capping interest rates at 36 percent on small loans issued by lenders that are not federally insured.

State regulatory data shows interest rates on title loans can range from an average of 238 percent to more than 450 percent. Installment loans can go much higher.

Democrat Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque is one of the sponsors. She said legislators need to stand up to lobbyists and end what she characterized as unscrupulous lending practices.

The industry is defending itself, saying it's one of the few options for low-income New Mexicans who find themselves in a bind and are ineligible for traditional credit.

Right-To-Die Bill Advances In New Mexico LegislatureThe Associated Press

A proposal that would allow terminally ill patients in New Mexico to end their lives with help from doctors is advancing in the New Mexico Legislature.

The state House Health and Human Services committee endorsed the bill Friday on a 4-3 party-line vote with Democrats in favor after three hours of public debate and testimonials.

New Mexico's assisted suicide law makes it a felony for doctors to end the life of a terminally ill patient.

In June, the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to overturn the law. Right-to-die advocates are turning to lawmakers to change state statutes.

Five other states allow residents to end their lives legally with medication prescribed by a physician.

The New Mexico bill is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Bill McCamley and Deborah Armstrong.

Navajo Nation Seeks Special Recognition Status From UNThe Associated Press

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and a tribal delegate are advocating for the Navajo Nation to become an official member of the United Nations.

Tribal officials say the delegation visited New York City this week.

Navajo Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown said non-governmental organizations and civil societies enjoy the privilege of participating in the United Nations but indigenous nations are limited with regards to their participation.

He said the UN must establish a new category to ensure that indigenous governing institutions are at least able to participate in all meetings to the fullest extent regarding issues that may affect Navajo people, their land, territories and resources.

A tribal committee in early January passed a resolution to advocate for the special recognition status of the Navajo Nation before the UN.

Navajo, Hopi Nations Oppose Possible Closure of Power PlantThe Associated Press

The Navajo and Hopi tribes joined forces to oppose the proposed closure of a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona.

Leaders said Thursday that keeping the Navajo Generating Station in full operation benefits the tribes and state because it is an important economic driver.

The Navajo Generating Station is near Page, Arizona and employs 500 people, mostly Navajo.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2014 that the plant could either shut down one of its three 750-megawatt units or reduce power generation by an equal amount by 2020 to cut haze-causing pollution at places like the Grand Canyon. Additional emission control equipment would be needed by 2030 on the two remaining units.

The Navajo Nation says it has a task force that meets with SRP officials to discuss other solutions.

New Mexico Democrats Condemn Veto of Court FundsThe Associated Press

New Mexico state court officials warned that time is running out to ensure funding of jury trials after Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed $800,000 in emergency funds for the judiciary.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels told a Senate committee that criminal cases are likely to be dismissed due to delays if funding to compensate jurors is not approved by March. He added that the Supreme Court itself will begin closing one day every other week without an infusion of money for staff salaries.

In a written veto message, Martinez said lawmakers failed address how the courts might operate more efficiently. She said she’ll take up the judiciary’s request directly as chairwoman of the New Mexico State Board of Finance later this month.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth accused the governor of playing political games rather than seriously addressing a state budget crisis.

New Mexico Increases Scrutiny For Conflicts Of Interest – The Associated Press

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office plans to post online financial disclosure statements detailing income, investments and other business ties for hundreds of state officials including lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries and the governor.

Agency spokesman John Blair said disclose forms will be posted online as soon as next week. In recent years, the information has been available upon request only.

Filed by most officials on a Jan. 31 deadline, the disclosures are designed as one precaution against conflicts of interest in government under the Financial Disclosure Act and are signed under penalty of perjury.

A recent analysis by the nonprofit group New Mexico Ethics Watch found that disclosure forms are plagued by omissions and evasive information. The state Legislature is considering reforms to the Financial Disclosure Act.

Attorney General Calls For Review Team on Child-Abuse DeathsThe Associated Press

New Mexico's attorney general and a Democratic lawmaker are calling for a new approach to reviewing the role of government services and procedures in preventing child-abuse related killings.

Attorney General Hector Balderas and Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque announced Thursday they are backing legislation to create a team for reviewing child-abuse related homicides. The review team would suggest possible reforms to improve prevention efforts and coordination among various social services and law enforcement agencies.

The effort responds to recent killings including the grizzly slaying of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

Under a bill introduced by Padilla, a special investigator also could be appointed to examine child killings where official safeguards may have failed. Investigators would be appointed by the secretary of children, youth and families at the request of the attorney general.

UNM Health Sciences Center to Host Forum on Child Well-BeingThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is hosting a conference on abuse and other childhood adversities as the state recovers from a string of high-profile cases that spurred public outcry.

Tuesday's event will include experts in prevention.

Organizer and medical school professor Elaine Bearer says officials want to raise the consciousness and understanding about the issues of childhood adversity and how it can be collectively addressed in New Mexico.

Last year, Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson announced the "Pull Together" campaign to help parents and to change the way state officials tackle child well-being.

The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children says New Mexico ranks 49th in the country for child well-being.

Rail Runner Looks to Add More Weekend Riders With Expansion – The Associated Press

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is considering changing its schedule in an effort to expand weekend ridership.

Key changes would include having both weekend days offer a mid-morning train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and be on the same schedule. The last departing train from Santa Fe on the weekend would leave an hour earlier under the proposal, for which the Rail Runner is seeking public comment.

The Rail Runner says the proposed changes are meant to offer more options, especially to riders who want to take the train on Sundays.

For example, the new schedule four northbound departures on weekends. Currently, there are only three.

Public comments on proposed changes are due Feb. 17.

Immigrant Advocates Want Dona Ana County to be SanctuaryThe Associated Press

Immigrant rights activists in Las Cruces are calling on Dona Ana County Sheriff Kiki Vigil to meet with them to discuss the department's polices on enforcing federal immigration laws.

A group of faith leaders and immigrant advocates are meeting on Friday morning to pressure the sheriff.

They say Vigil canceled a community meeting that was supposed to take place last week.

The group wants to know whether the sheriff's office will help federal agents detain and deport immigrants. It wants the county to be a safe space for immigrants.

Cities and counties all over the country are considering adopting so-called sanctuary status banning local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration authorities.

A proposal from Democrats in the state Legislature would make New Mexico a sanctuary state.

Albuquerque Schools Face Cuts Due to Dwindling Cash Reserves – The Associated Press, The ABQ Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools are facing continued pressure as its cash reserves dwindle in the wake of budget reductions by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman on Wednesday that a reduction in cash reserves approved by Martinez could force the district to have to choose what checks can be paid.

APS uses its cash reserves, which currently stand at $53 million, for critical areas including summer payroll. The fund also helps APS maintain a strong credit rating and covers state and federal programs until government reimbursements totaling tens of millions of dollars come in.

Coleman says if the district spends more than it is owed in reimbursements, it could lose its ability to pay its bills.

Former Lawmaker Loses Seat, Gets Hired By Administration – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A former lawmaker who carried several of Gov. Susana Martinez's anti-crime bills before losing his seat has been hired by the administration to help run the Corrections Department.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Corrections Department Secretary-Designate David Jablonski announced Wednesday the former state rep. Paul Pacheco will join the department as deputy secretary.

In his announcement, Jablonski cited Pacheco's legislative career, his 27 years with the Albuquerque Police Department and his term as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association as reasons why he will bring strong experiences to the department.

Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, served four years in the house before losing his re-election bid to democrat Daymon Ely in November.